DERRY — Assets worth over UK£5 million, including properties and back accounts linked to Protestant Loyalist paramilitaries, have been frozen by Northern Ireland’s main criminal assets agency. Late on Wednesday night, the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) seized several properties in Northern Ireland and in Dublin in the Republic of Ireland, as well as an apartment on the Cote D’Azur in France. In total, 49 properties came under the remit of the ARA action, which had been permitted by Belfast’s High Court. Eight bank accounts were also frozen. The assets belonged to an individual named Colin Armstrong, who has allegedly been involved in drug smuggling from the continent, with links to crime groups based in Belgium. Armstrong is said to have links with two Protestant paramilitary groups – the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), and the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF), which split from the UVF in the early 1990s. Properties seized were in the Portadown and Craigavon areas south of Belfast. Both towns are LVF strongholds.
DERRY — Police in the Irish Republic have arrested seven people as part of an investigation into Irish Republican Army (IRA) money-laundering. Euro and sterling notes worth a total of €3.6 million were seized in capital Dublin and in Cork, and further police raids were ongoing areas in the midlands and east of the country. One raid on Thursday morning recovered £2 million (nearly €2.9 million) from a house in rural Cork. Senior detectives from Northern Ireland’s police were in Dublin on Friday for a security meeting with their counterparts in the Republic.
DERRY — The Independent Monitoring Commission set up by the Irish and British governments released a report on Thursday, saying that senior Sinn Féin members had advance knowledge of the theft, allegedly by the IRA, of some €31 million from a Belfast bank in December. Both governments have endorsed the findings. In Dublin, Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell said some of the politicians implicated in the report were household names, but the report did not name anyone directly. Sinn Féin is said to be the political wing of the Irish Republican Army and its president, Gerry Adams, responded to the IMC report by challenging the Irish government to either have him arrested or cease what he termed “unsubstantiated allegations.” Early on Friday, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern described Adams’ comments as “a little bit childish…a little bit nonsense.”
DERRY — Politicians and the public in Ireland and the UK have spent the weekend coming to terms with accusations that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) was responsible for a massive Belfast bank robbery on 20 December 2004.
Last Friday afternoon, Hugh Orde, Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), stated that he thought that “[…] the Provisional IRA were responsible for this crime and all main lines of inquiry currently undertaken are in that direction.” Orde was speaking after meeting key members of Northern Ireland’s policing board. Martin McGuinness, chief negotiator for Sinn Féin, the political party linked to the IRA, reacted to Orde’s comments by telling press that the IRA had told him that the group had not conducted the robbery, and that Orde’s comments were part of a politically-motivated campaign to undermine Sinn Féin and the peace process.
DERRY – Over £20 million (nearly €29 million) was stolen on Monday from a Belfast bank headquarters, in what was one of the largest robberies ever carried out in Ireland or Britain. Sam Kincaid, Assistant Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), said the robbery “was a well-organized crime”, and “could be paramilitary-related”. Former Special Branch police chief in Northern Ireland, Bill Lowry, told the pro-unionist Newsletter newspaper that the Provisional Irish Republican Army was the most likely suspect. Northern Bank headquarters, which holds cash for business clients and for the bank’s network of ATMs, was targeted in what appeared to be a meticulously planned operation.